Published: 26th July 2021
English Blues: Understanding the difference between each other and one another
A look at the thin lines we tread between "each other" and "one another" and if a faux pas among them can lead to some serious miscommunication
A motivational speaker greeted the audience and began his talk. “I’m married with two kids but the best days of my life were the days I spent with another man’s wife.” Everyone was shocked.
After a few seconds of silence, the speaker said, “And the woman is my mother.” A round of applause followed and the attendees looked at one another and laughed. One man who liked the joke decided to crack it at home. After dinner, the man said to his wife, “The best days of my life were the days I spent with another man’s wife.” His wife was shocked and there were a few seconds of silence. Both looked at each other for a while. The man tried to say the punch line but couldn’t recall it. All of a sudden something happened. By the time he regained consciousness, he found himself in a hospital bed. What is the moral of the story? “Don’t copy anything if you don’t know how to paste it.” In the anecdote, we come across the phrases one another and each other. What is the difference? We use ‘one another’ when discussing more than two people and ‘each other’ when discussing two people. Here are examples:
• Students shall not communicate with one another during an examination.
• The two men looked at each other.
In modern English, ‘one another’ is considered a formal term and is not commonly used. So, in the sentence below, the phrases can be used interchangeably.
• Amala and Vimala have known each other/one another since 2015.
Mother Teresa used ‘each other’ and ‘one another’ without making any distinction between the two:
• People who love each other fully are truly the happiest people in the world. They may have little, they may have nothing, but they are happy people. Everything depends on how we love one another.
It is incorrect to say that Amala and Vimala have known themselves since 2015. Look at this:
• Janet and Isabelle were in love with each other’s boyfriends a few years ago.
Janet was in love with Isabelle’s boyfriend and Isabelle was in love with Janet’s boyfriend a few years ago. In this context, it is good to know the difference between between and among. ‘Between’ is used to talk about things that are clearly separated and ‘among’ is used to talk about things that are not distinct and are viewed as a group. Here’s an example:
• There are differences in sentence structures between English and French.
• There is no unity among the teachers.